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Get the Free 20 questions to Ask Before Launching Your Idea workbook when you sign up for occasional updates.

How Do You Differentiate Yourself?

Life’s too short to sell things you don’t believe in. ~ Patrick Dixon

Often the real value of the work you do isn’t what gets delivered in the package, during the session or in the ebook. In order to differentiate you need to really understand the effect of what you do, sell, offer or deliver to people. I hope you’ll consider asking yourself some of the questions on this list and maybe add a few of your own.

1. Why do you do what you do?
2. Does your story really define what you do?
3. What makes you, your product, service or business stand out?
4. What makes it blend in?
5. How is your product different?
6. How is your service special?
7. Are you delivering on your promise, original, unique, fastest, flexible, enduring, best?
8. Can you create a new market and do something that hasn’t been done before?
9. Can you reinvent something that’s already been done and do it better?
10. What do people care about right now?
11. What’s not selling today that might, if you marketed it in new ways tomorrow?
12. Could you produce something enduring, that’s scalable?
13. Is it possible to create scarcity?
14. How is your product compelling?
15. Is your name evocative?
16. Does your work start conversations?
17. If not how could you make that happen?
18. Are you giving people a sense of your purpose and values?
19. How does your product or service make people feel?
20. What’s your legacy?

Image by Thomas Hawk.

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Brand Names Are The Start Of A Story

From the moment the blue line appears on the pregnancy test and for the next 35 weeks, the one thing that obsesses most couples day and night while waiting for their new arrival is what they will call her. They compulsively leaf through baby name books, trawl websites and test out sound combinations and meanings. They poll friends, write list upon list, crossing off here, adding there, agonising about the legacy of this one decision. Since time began humans have instinctively understood that a name is the start of a story.

When we name our children we are writing the opening lines of their first chapter. We want to give them names they can grow into. Their names are part of our vision of what we hope they will one day be in the world and researchers have proven that names can have a lasting impact on outcomes for individuals in later life.

Names are not simply designed to identify, they really can take us in one direction or another. And so it goes with brand names, book titles and product names too. Companies know that names can make or break, that they build mystery, can form the basis of a movement or create cult status. That’s why ‘Purple Cow’ is a more compelling title than, ‘Marketing for Today’, and why Innocent was a genius way to begin the story of a juice and smoothie company.

A great name can take you places a good name can’t. A truly great brand name makes room for a new story in people’s hearts and minds and can position a good product beyond it’s utility.

Don’t set out to name a company or a product,
set out to name your vision of what you want to see in the world

Design your brand name to create lofty expectations, to make people believe something, not just notice it, and to signal your difference to the world.

Image by Kai Chan Vong.</a

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How Virgin Wins With A Better Story

Good Story means something worth telling
that the world wants to hear. ~ Robert McKee

Every time a customer encounters your marketing they are filling in the blanks. Their perceptions about your business are being etched in their minds and if you’re doing a great job, in their hearts too over time. All marketing beings with a great story. A true story that your customers want to believe in.

You are telling your story with design on your website and words in your copy. Piece by piece from your product to premises, packaging to profile photo, music to mission statement, you are sending out clues about what it means to do business with you.

Every detail of your story
is part of the interface between you and your customer

Over the weekend here in Australia, our national airline was grounded in an attempt to settle a longstanding dispute over pay. The entire fleet of 108 aircraft stopped flying, leaving passengers both here and abroad stranded. A story and reputation built over decades was shattered in one day. All the taglines, refurbished lounges and commitment statements will not save you if the rest of your story doesn’t add up.

Virgin has just repositioned itself as a real alternative to Qantas for the business traveller. Virgin tells an upbeat story about improved standards, fabulous staff, putting customers at the centre of everything they do and then sprinkles it with the magic of red high heeled shoes (which Virgin Atlantic is bringing back for stewardesses). Their response to the Qantas crisis (extra flights, access to lounges and information about stranded passenger discounts), shows customers that their brand is living the story not just telling it.

Image by Kevin H.

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What Story Can People Tell Themselves About You?

This is the story of two businesses. I tell it often. Two cafes, that are literally side by side on the same street. One has a shaded elevated outdoor seating area with a view of the ocean. It is bigger and has a couple of comfy couches inside, where customers can relax over a light snack. On a beautiful Sunday morning at 9am they have a sign outside saying; “Open all day, for breakfast, drinks and snacks.” There are two people sitting inside.

The tiny cafe next door is smaller. They have extended their seating area outside onto the pavement. You don’t get a view of the ocean because of the lower elevation. They have made the most of the available space by placing low orange coloured stools at little square tables. Some people miss the cafe as they drive past because it’s tucked in between the petrol station, the larger cafe and behind the bus shelter. At 9am on the very same Sunday it is packed to bursting. There are people spilling out onto the pavement and others waiting both inside and out for a table. Why?

The bustling little cafe with the orange stools does serve great coffee, expensive cakes and organic homemade food. But what differentiates them is more than just coffee. They simply make their customers feel part of something special; a shared secret. Customers who go there feel that they belong. They believe that where they drink coffee says something about the kind of life they have and the experiences they enjoy.

Behind every business statistic, reader, website visitor and customer, is a real human being who wants to matter.
People the world over care about and pay more for things that make them feel that they matter.

People don’t want experiences and things that are fabulous, cool, beautiful, empowering, trendy, delicious, sexy, cutting edge, healthy and smart. They want to be all of those things. And your business must give them the opportunity to shape the story of themselves.

People are looking for a reason to do business with you. So why not give them a great one?

Your customers, clients and readers want to feel something and they want you to help them get there. What story can people tell themselves about why you’re different, why they love your brand and feel compelled to do business with you?

*This is an open Q&A thread. Post your brand story questions, with links to your website where appropriate and I’ll answer them.

Image by Henry.

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The path to success is not simply determined by the ability to have great ideas. The capacity to understand their relevance in the world, to customers, (real people) and to sell that, is what makes a product, service, cause or idea fly.

The MP3 player is one of the best examples of a situation where being first with the idea didn’t matter one jot. Lots of people came selling their tech and spec before Apple launched the iPod. They just didn’t tell a compelling story. People can’t fall in love with 32MB and user interfaces.
But “1000 songs in your pocket.” Now that’s compelling!

The path to success is littered with great ideas poorly marketed

Compelling is empowering people to take action.
“You’ve got to get on the phone and take the money out of your pocket. Don’t go to the pub tonight. PLEASE! Stay in and give us the money. There are people dying NOW! So give me the money.”
Bob Geldof on Live Aid

Compelling is telling people to, love where they live, rather than asking them to buy your flat pack furniture and a red cushion they probably don’t need.

Compelling is Mickey balloons on Main Street at dusk.

And compelling is you amplifying your passion enough to tell people why you’re different and what that difference could mean to them.

Image by Samantha Decker.

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Advertising Is Not Real Marketing

Think about the people you do business with and the brands you care about. Are you drawn in by their advertising or their marketing story?

That full colour advert in the Sunday supplement is a tactic. So is the expensive, shiny new website you’re having built and those letterpress business cards you spent a fortune on. Tactics help you to communicate your message. Real marketing makes it stick.

Real marketing is built into what you do and why you do it. It’s part of your story, something that you do organically when your business is aligned with your mission and values. Kept promises, free returns, getting back to people, clean tables and attentive staff are your real marketing. Real marketing creates an impact, leaves a lasting impression and is as powerful as a smile.

How are you making real marketing work for you?

Image by zz77.

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The Secret To Creating Ideas That Matter

Ability, knowledge, education, money, self belief and connections, all fall away in the face of the one thing that really makes ideas infectious. The success of ideas and dreams of leaders and heroes the world over, from Richard Branson, to Steve Jobs, Scott Harrision to Jacqueline Novogratz is passion. Passion is the most compelling and irresistible emotion there is.

Passion is at the heart of every idea that matters

If you want to experience passion selling an idea in action, take a look at how Charles Hazlewood talks about the Para Orchestra. Charles is founding the world’s first ever world class disabled orchestra. It will be a platform for impossible genius, that will change our perspectives about disability and transform perceptions about what is, and what could be. If you have, and can communicate your ideas with this kind of passion then they will fly.

You can’t learn to be passionate, but you can learn how to communicate your passion. How could you start communicating your ideas with more passion?

Image by Emmie Green.

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People Don’t Want To Buy Your Process

I’m working with a client who is choosing images for her website, she’s worried that they need relate exactly to the services she offers. Maybe you do too?

When Grace comes into your salon to have her legs waxed she doesn’t usually ask what kind of wax you use. You might think what she needs is to be hair free, but what she really wants is to look sexy on the beach this weekend. Joe doesn’t care much about the work that goes into coding that ’hire me’ graphic for his website. He just wants you to make him look more professional, so he can afford that holiday on the east coast next summer.

Although your energy goes into the process, what your customer is buying are the results. When was the last time you thought about the hard labour of the honey bee when you took a bite out of your toast?

Don’t be afraid to tell people the story of your business in a different way, a way that other businesses choose not to. Practice the art of selling people what they really want. You might be surprised by your results.

Image by TW Collins.

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The One Thing To Remember About Website Traffic

It wasn’t going to be cheap, but Anna figured that she’d outsource all of her online marketing to a company who knew what they were doing. She’d spent the past two years working really hard to build her service business offline, and was hugely successful at converting customers face to face. Now in a phase of expansion and growth, Anna decided to target strangers as well as friends.

The five figure marketing company came in and rebuilt her websites. They optimised everything to within an inch of its life, making sure that search engines would love, and more importantly find Anna. Her website visits increased, but her visitors didn’t stick around and crucially they didn’t bother to pick up the phone or email either. Anna was stumped, she’d done everything right, but she began to think that her business wasn’t capable of converting people she’d never met, or who hadn’t been recommended to her. She was wrong. Blinded by a marketing tactic, Anna had forgotten one thing.

Behind every website traffic statistic
is a human being who wants to matter

Anna’s website might be optimised for search engines, but it wasn’t optimised for soul and emotion. Everything that Anna knew about connecting with people offline had been stripped out of her online presence and that mattered to potential customers.

Google can’t really optimise what the non-average, exceptional, client you would kill for wants to buy. Google can’t optimise your purpose, your heart or your soul, your art or judgement, your professionalism, enthusiasm or intention. It’s your job to give people a sense of that even if you’ve never met them.

How are your optimising for soul and emotion? What kind of SEO are you doing?

Image by Alexandra Galvis.

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Don’t Just Tell Me What It’s Made Of

Jo is an amazing designer. She creates hand made scarves, from locally woven fabrics which she designs herself. Her website tells part of the story. Jo writes about the materials used, the time it takes to create the design, source just the right fabric dyes and weave the most exquisite scarves you have ever seen. I read all about her passion for her work, and why it’s important to be unique. I found out that Jo did made beautiful things, but I didn’t know why I should care about them.

Until I met her that is. “You know that you’ve done the right thing by spending that extra little bit on your scarf, when four or five people in the room stop you to admire it.” Jo said. And just like that I understand why I would want one, not simply because it would look great, but because of how I could imagine myself feeling when I wore it.

When Jamie Oliver makes a salad, he talks about the ingredients he’s added to make it taste perfect, but he doesn’t stop there, he paints a picture of you sharing it with family and friends.



Don’t just make something wonderful. Make me a hero.

Image by Ashley Rose.

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